Inside the Patty Hearst Kidnapping

Where are the counterculture journalists of today? The sixties produced a bunch of us, but we desperately need reinforcements because our society has become awash in idiot culture, short-term attention spans, click-baits, celebrity gossip, and runaway narcissism. But it wasn’t always like this. There was life in America before the dumbing-down campaign reached epidemic proportions.

PM Press published two of Paul Krassner’s penetrating essays on life behind the curtains in the seventies, one on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and the other on the murder of Harvey Milk. This book is a quick read designed to appeal to even the shortest of attention spans, but it also plumbs deep into the murky waters of the national security state, which took over the country long ago, and apparently had numerous operations ongoing in California in the seventies designed to derail the counterculture revolution.

The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and brainwashed her into joining their violent revolution, which included robbing banks, territory already well charted by the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany as well as the Weather Underground, a pro-violent off-shoot of a once non-violent Students for Democratic Society.

If you can’t get control of a movement through penetration ops, the other way to co-opt any movement is by creating a more fanatical and violent alternative that can accuse the movement leaders of being too timid. This sort of game has been played for a long time, yet few journalists ever catch on.

Krassner caught on, although his groundbreaking conspiracy research often got all mixed up with his political satire. Real investigative journalists in America tend to die young: just ask Steve Kangas, Danny Casolaro or Gary Webb. It’s unfortunate, Krassner dropped his conspiracy investigations because they began making him paranoid. To make matters more confusing, Krassner practically invented fake news in the 1950s and 60s by writing satirical stories in The Realist. His favorite trick was to make up something so outrageous it couldn’t possibly be true, but fill it with details that fooled people into thinking it might be. The best example would be his account of LBJ fucking JFK’s head wound in order to alter the direction of the fatal shot, something a few people in the Beltway seemed to have briefly swallowed.

Fortunately, satire is not a part of this collection, not really. While covering the Patty Hearst trial, Krassner discovered the family of an SLA member had hired Lake Headley, an ex-police intelligence officer, to find out what the SLA was all about. Headley soon informed them the SLA was part of the CIA’s CHAOS program. Donald DeFreeze, founder of the group, was a documented police informant who had probably been subject to mind control during his incarceration.

It’s strange how the publisher promotes this as “satire,” when, in fact, it’s just good journalism, the sort we need more of today.

How to build a boogieman called terror

Meet James Cromitie who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Many young blacks, especially those railroaded into prison by our racist and unjust drug laws, have two choices in life: join a gang or join the Muslims. Cromitie picked the Muslims.

But then he was unlucky enough to visit a Mosque in his hometown of Newburgh, New York, the same day an FBI informant arrived trolling for terrorist wannabes.

See the FBI has 15,000 informants on its payroll. I call these dudes “spooks.” Many are criminals who bartered their way out of a jam by turning into secret FBI agents. The FBI dude from Pakistan took an interest in Cromitie and asked him if he’d like to make $250,000.

As someone who has bicycled through the town of Newburgh on the way to Woodstock, I can assure you it’s one of the most poverty-stricken areas in upstate New York and the promise of a $250,000 payday is enough to get one of its poorer residents to agree to just about anything, although the FBI tapes reveal Cromitie would not agree to do any act that hurt anyone, only to destroy property that the FBI dude wanted blown up.

Meet Shahed Hussain, who hatched this plot and recruited Cromitie. He drove a different luxury car to every meeting with Cromitie and seems to have amassed a fleet of high-end vehicles from doing undercover work for the FBI the last few years, but then there are another 15,000 informants like Hussain some of whom must be trolling Americans, trying to recruit poor saps into jihad honeytraps, and some of them may have amassed their own luxury fleets.

After promising Cromitie $250,000 for a couple day’s work, Hussain asked Cromitie to recruit some more Muslims, as this jihad needed more terrorists in order to look more like a serious conspiracy. Hassain lured the four men across state lines to pick up a stinger missile launcher for him. Crossing state lines turned this conspiracy into a Federal matter and the stinger missiles made it a mandatory 25-year sentence thanks to the Patriot Act.

Eventually this gang that couldn’t shoot straight was asked to deliver two fake plastic explosive bombs into two cars parked outside a Jewish Temple in the posh Riverdale section of the Bronx. Someone had parked the cars and left the doors unlocked for this purpose. So you had a government informant from Pakistan, sheep-dipping four poor dudes who didn’t have ten dollars between them, none of whom even owned a vehicle, and these dudes are asked to pose as terrorists to make $250,000 each in one day? Since a mob hit typically costs $5k, one wonders how anyone could be dumb enough to believe they were going to get a million dollars for dropping a bag into a car in front of a Temple, but these guys did believe this was going to happen. They thought they were playing Hussain, when it was the other way around.

Over 100 police officers, support helicopters, riot vehicles, flatbed trucks, SWAT teams in full combat gear immediately surrounded the four unarmed men, smashed the windows of the vehicle they were inside (owned by the FBI informant) dragged them out of the car and paraded them in front of the national media as ruthless jihadists ready to strike at innocent Americans because they hate the west, not four slobs trying find a route out of poverty. Cromite and his unlucky friends are now serving 25-to-life.

But this is nothing unusual. This drama is played out every month in America because terrorism has to be manufactured or the wheels are going to fall off the hoodwink. In fact, no real Mosque in America has ever been found guilty of fomenting terrorism, and every legitimate Muslim knows when a newcomer walks in and starts talking jihad, he is a government agent trying to entrap people. Talking jihad in an American Mosque is the quickest way to get kicked out of any Mosque. But the FBI stooges have to troll real Mosques so they can make sure people realize this is a religious war.

“I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition,” said U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon at sentencing. “That does not mean there was no crime.”

An amazing documentary on this case aired on HBO, The Newburgh Four. Why these men weren’t pardoned by President Obama just based on this film is beyond me. Will someone please reign in Homeland Security and not allow this sort of scam to continue? I just hope the Newburgh Four win their appeal with the Supreme Court because there’s never been a more clear-cut case of entrapment in history.

The wikipedia page on this case is a travesty and I hope someone can get some shreds of truth on that page someday, because right now it’s just an apology for a very weak case and contains few revelations from the documentary.

Update: In October 2018, a stretch limo supplied by Hussain’s rental company crashed in upstate New York, killing all 18 on board as well as two pedestrians.

The real 9/11 suspects

Probably the best book on 9/11 is Another Nineteen, Investigating Legitimate 9/11 Suspects by Kevin Robert Ryan, a book that peers deep into the biographies of those suspiciously residing in key strategic positions. If 9/11 was a deep intelligence project designed to jump-start a war, this trail should be an effective one.

I don’t pretend to know what happened on 9/11, although I do know the Commission that supposedly investigated it was handcuffed from the start and much has been obscured and hidden and many lies told by the backpedaling Pentagon. When two Congressmen recently read the deleted secret pages concerning Saudi complicity removed from the final report, it put them into shock and completely rearranged their understanding of the event. Citizens of New York City are also pressing for an investigation into why Building 7 collapsed without investigation.
Meet Paul Mlakar (above). While working as Vice President of JAYCOR, unofficial spinoff of SAIC, Mlakar obtained a number of patents on explosive containment devices for aircraft. In 1998, he performed classified simulations measuring the damage the Pentagon would suffer from a truck bomb.

After 9/11 Mlakar was put in charge of investigating the crash at the Pentagon.

Interestingly enough, Mlakar is married to the daughter of Col. Robert P. Halloran, a former intelligence officer and acting director of the NSA under Allen Dulles (1960-61).

What Ryan’s book does primarily is show how a small cabal of 19 inside America could have easily run the event, and what is truly scary is the dots point to a NATO connection. In other words, this cabal has close ties to European centers of power, so when people say 9/11 was an “inside job” I don’t think that comment is necessarily completely true, although certainly a few major players inside the US establishment and military were involved, the conspiracy stretches across the pond to our mother countries.

The real story behind Sugarland Express

Pursuit of Robert Dent in southeast Texas, May 1969, which inspired the film “The Sugarland Express.”

Bobby Dent was driving through Port Arthur with his wife Fae, when a patrol car appeared behind him, red lights twirling at 2 AM in the morning. It’s never been determined what exactly the Dents were up to at that time of morning, but whatever it was, it was enough to cause Bobby to panic and try and outrun the squad car. He ended up crashing into a tree in the woods outside town.

Before the police could apprehend the couple, they disappeared into the woods where they located an empty cabin with a working telephone. After meditating on his situation for a few hours, Bobby called the operator and brazenly told her that he and his wife and been hitchhiking when they were beaten and robbed and they required transportation to a doctor or hospital.  At 6 AM, a highway patrolman appeared at the cabin to assist the couple, but when he entered the cabin, Fae and Bobby pointed revolvers at him.

Without any plan of what they were doing next, the Dents took the trooper hostage and began driving to Houston, Fae holding a shotgun to his head in the backseat while Bobby pressed a Magnum against his side. Apparently the Dents did not realize driving down a busy highway in this manner was likely to create commotion, something O. J. Simpson would learn many years later when he made his panicky escape attempt. By the time they reached Houston, the caravan behind them numbered over 100 vehicles.

Texas State Trooper James Kenneth Crone. Crone was kidnapped May 2, 1969, by Robert and Ila Faye Dent.

Jim Crone was the kidnapped officer and DPS Captain Jerry Miller in charge of the rescue. To his great credit, Miller refused to blockade or impede the Dents, and even allowed them to make refuel and bathroom stops without any interference. His only plan was to prevent the Dents from doing harm to anyone.

Along the way, Bobby and Fae decided to turn north so they could visit Fae’s two children from a previous marriage, who were living with their grandmother. Captain Miller made a deal with Bobby that Fae could see her kids for a few minutes and then get a 15-minute headstart to continue their escape. Bobby was gullible enough to believe him and when he opened the door to Fae’s mom’s house with Crone in front of him, Crone threw himself on the floor. Bobby took a shotgun blast in the chest as well as a few revolver rounds in the heart.
Fae dropped her weapon and sobbed, “They’ve killed him.”

Ila Faye Dent, outside a Wheelock home and just feet away from her dead husband, Robert Dent.

The press took a photo of her staring at Bobby’s lifeless body right after the killing.
Fae ended up serving a few months in jail and was then reunited with her kids. Steven Spielberg was 30 when he made the film version of this story, although if you’ve seen the film, you’ll realize how much the story was twisted for cheap emotional effect.

Sugarland Express was Spielberg’s first feature and it bombed, although it’s a highly entertaining movie provided you don’t know the real story. In retrospect, I believe his rise to one of the greatest wag-the-dog producers of our time was ordained from the beginning. Certain people just have all the right connections to get sheep-dipped as a Knight in Shining Armor, and no matter what the outcome of their missions, their promotions will be assured, so it should come as no surprise he was handed a shark film next, and once again showed how effective his tricks could be, no matter if the content was somewhat shallow. Of all his films, Munich really stands out as the best for my taste, and it’s one of my top ten spy films.

Down the Rabbit Hole we go….my review of Unthinkable

marshall-murder-suicideI was shocked to wake up and discover the New York Times had reviewed the release of a extremely low-budget and obscure 9/11 conspiracy film called Unthinkable, closely based on the life and death of Philip Marshall, who was found dead along with his two teenage children, all three with a single bullet to the head.

Marshall had briefly worked in New Orleans with Barry Seal many decades ago, and Barry was one of the most famous spooks of his time, and a man hung out to dry by the CIA after he stopped playing ball and threatened to go rouge. Marshall wrote a book about Barry, then published a book on 9/11. He was continuing to investigate that incident when he abruptly turned up dead. Since Marshall was a pilot, it was easy for him to gather evidence that conflicted with the official story because some of the planes that day were doing maneuvers captured by radar that defied the abilities of the most accomplished pilots, much less anyone with only a few hours of training. Many months after Marshall’s death, I finally got around to ordering a copy of his 9/11 book, The Big Bamboozle, which never made a splash in the press or earned much money. The book had some useful information, but did not break new ground or contain any smoking guns. Obviously, we’ll never know what really happened on 9/11 until the obvious trails into Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are fully investigated, something Congress refused to do, but my initial suspicion was Marshall may have been whacked.

Wayne Madsen flew out to California to investigate this incident and decided it was murder, not suicide as claimed by the local police. Unthinkable is told from Maden’s point-of-view and seems to rely exclusively on his evidence.
So why is the New York Times even the slightest bit interested in this film anyway? Please note Madsen is a frequent guest on the Alex Jones, and Jones is an obvious demagogue spreading paranoia.

The good thing about all this is it basically confirms my suspicion Madsen is still a spook. Of course, he makes no secret of his past work for the NSA, or career in the Navy, the most sinister of all the divisions of the military it seems, or at least the one with the longest documented involvement with organized crime, since it was Naval intelligence that made the deal with Lucky Luciano and later tried to buy off Jim Garrison’s investigation of JFK’s assassination.
I don’t trust whistleblowers on sight because most are manufactured and controlled in some way. Real whistleblowers get whacked, while fakes end up on the cover of Time magazine. This is nothing new and things have been handled in this way for a long time, which is why I call it “a wilderness of mirrors.” But if you want to add another layer of complexity to this situation, paint legitimate suicides as NSA hits. The same thing was basically attempted after Gary Webb committed suicide. Gary had already lost his job, his house, his family. His last possession, his motorcycle, was stolen right before he killed himself. Daniel Hopsicker wrote a great blog on Marshall’s death and does not trust Madsen any more than I do.

So I’ve decided Philip Marshall was bipolar, about to divorce, and in a delusional breakdown when he shot his sleeping kids in the head and turned his gun on himself. The major objections to this were no one in the neighborhood heard any shots that night, but, in fact, the police did test the weapon inside the house and discovered it did not make sufficient noise to alarm anyone in the adjacent homes.

Consequently, you might take this film with a grain of salt, or anything else that stems from the research of Wayne Madsen.
Here’s the trailer:

Obama's comedic rise and future of the Presidency

obama-galifianakisAmerica has turned a new page. The President is officially a comedian, so expect the wag the dog movies to get a lot more entertaining. I predict this is the beginning of a trend, in fact. Pretty soon, getting to the White House might depend on your ability to deliver a punch line.
I don’t know how much of Zach/Barack skit was scripted (I assume all of it), but there’s no denying the sitting President has a future in stand-up should he desire to pursue that path after the Presidency.
This moment reminds me when Entertainment Tonight first debuted on television. I was working on a script that would become the film Beat Street, so I was all caught up in entertainment media and thought Entertainment Tonight was the greatest show on television. But after it ate television, I began to despise this trend of putting celebrities at the forefront of news.
But I realize if comedians are going to become politicians soon, and that sure seems likely based on what’s happening, this might be a great time to elect Bill Murray as President. And how cool would that be?

Cult Classics Free on Youtube

While working on a list of the 200 greatest films in history I discovered many that stream free on Youtube.

Maybe you know of a great film that streams free, and I’d sure love it if you sent me a link as a comment on this blog so I can include it in my series.

Don Henderson sent a link to Cool World made in the early 1960s (not the animated feature of the same name). Meanwhile, within a few minutes Dave Allen recommended Nightmare Alley, while James Marshall posted Five Minutes to Kill starring Johnny Cash.

Post any links to this blog you think should be in my next film book.


My 10 favorite spy movies

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) introduced the concept of hypnotic mind control assassins walking among us. The film was recently remade, although the more modern version was a disaster and conveys none of the suspense of the original, which was based on an explosive book by Richard Condon, who’d served as the publicist for Walt Disney before launching his career as a novelist. Disney was very close with J. Edgar Hoover and a real Cold Warrior himself. There were some deep secrets revealed by this film, so much so the studio pulled it one year after release because it had some eerie parallels to the assassination of JFK.

If you were expecting a James Bond film on this list, I’m afraid to disappoint. The Bond films are entertaining but really just silly melodramas that bear little resemblance to the moral complexities real spooks face when they delve into deep politics. John Le Carre’s portrayals of spook world were far more accurate than anything Ian Fleming ever wrote, although they both worked for British intelligence, though Le Carre’s “Circus” was initially based on the inner sanctum of the SIS, while Fleming initially worked for British naval intelligence. Based on Le Carre’s third and most successful novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) introduced George Smiley to most of the world.

The Ipcress File (1965) followed in the wake of Manchurian Candidate by delving into the use of hypnotism and psychic driving to rearrange the brains of secret agents who knew too much. It would soon become much imitated. Sealed the career of Michael Caine and got him noticed in Hollywood. Based on a novel by fromer RAF pilot Len Deighton. In response to the Bond franchise, Deighton revealed spook world was actually filled with meaningless red tape and interdepartmental rivalries to great comic effect.

The Kremlin Letter (1970) was a ground-breaking film that bombed at the box office, but remains one of the great masterpieces of the genre directed by John Huston and based on a book written by Noel Behn, formerly of the United States Army Counterintelligence Corps. This is probably the closest thing to a real CIA operation in Russia you will ever find, and it all revolves around drugs and prostitutes. The protagonist is recruited out of the Navy because of his photographic memory and soon enters the rabbit hole into a wilderness of mirrors. The spooks are ruthless and will use any tactic to fulfill a mission, and you never know which side they’re on because sides change quickly.

You don’t see this film on many lists, but I love it, and it revealed the dark underbelly to our involvement in Vietnam, including capturing a monopoly on opium from French intelligence. It’s not really classified as a “spy” movie because the main character was loosely based on Neal Cassady. They even recreate a version of the Pranksters hangout in Perry Lane for the big climatic ending, when the bad spooks and Cassady slug it out. Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978) is a rousing adventure story in which the spooks are the bad guys.

In the real world of spooks, the hidden machinations of the oil industry play a crucial role. Oil is a weapon, and when the price goes high, countries that don’t have any, like China, are kept in check. Syriana (2005) remains one of the few peeks into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has become a haven for spook activities.

Munich (2006) may be my all-time favorite spy film and details how Israel set-up assassination teams to get vengeance against the Black September group that assassinated their Olympic champions at the Munich games in 1972. Based on the life of real-life Mossad agent Juval Aviv, it shows how the moderate Palestinian leadership was replaced by violent fanatics after the assassinations, leaving the Mossad spooks wondering if they weren’t being manipulated to increase violence and tension rather than resolve it.

The Company (2007) is actually what many undercover CIA spooks call their outfit, and this history of the CIA is better than the more expensive The Good Shepherd, which covered similar territory and was released a year earlier, the difference being this was released as a TV miniseries and not a theatrical film. Unfortunately, both projects blinked when it came to covering the JFK assassination, which was a Company project undertaken by many of the same spooks involved in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Other than that major oversight, there’s some real truths revealed in this complex drama.

Spooks and terrorists go hand-in-hand, and in the wilderness of mirrors it’s often hard to tell the two apart. Carlos (2010) is a masterful glimpse into this world and would have been even better if the original Feelies soundtrack had been left intact. Unfortunately, the band didn’t want to get associated with a notorious terrorist and nixed their music. You won’t find a better miniseries about deep political events and I promise this will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

There are two celebrated versions of Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy (1979, 2011), a loose interpretation of the unveiling of super spook Kim Philby (although some elements are ignored to make it more palatable, especially Philby’s friendship with Victor Rothschild). This famous Le Carre novel is widely considered the most accurate portrayal of MI6-SIS operations. The BBC version stars Alec Guinness while the more modern British-French theatrical film stars Gary Oldman. The theatrical film has better production values, but also makes many changes designed to enhance the drama. The BBC version, on the other hand, is much closer to the original book and more believable as a result. And if you like the 4-hour made-for-tv version (free to watch on Youtube), you can follow it up with the 6-hour Smiley’s People, the final saga in Smiley’s epic battles with KGB’s Karla.

My 10 favorite horror films

The British may own spooks and black magic through their dominating James Bond and Harry Potter icons, but the Germans initially ruled over the birth of horror films. The first masterpiece of the genre is the expressionistic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Modern concepts of hypnotism and mind control are expressed in this film, although the CIA would not adopt them for another 20 years or so.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is one of the greatest spy movies ever made, and also a terrific horror story with many layers. It introduced the concept of brainwashing through psychic driving and ritual abuse. In fact, the story was so on target the film had to be pulled for many years after JFK was assassinated, simply because the assassination had too many similarities with this story. In fact, Oswald was undoubtedly a victim of MKULTRA hypnosis programming. The 1960s was really the classic era of this genre and half my top ten come from the decade.

Carnival of Souls (1962) sets the record for low budget, having been made for around $33,000. Despite the lack of any real resources, its a psychological masterpiece driven by an incredibly disturbing organ soundtrack. People have tried to remake this but never to the same effect.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the great masters of the genre and made many films that deserve consideration, including Psycho. But The Birds (1963) is my favorite of all the scary films Hitch made, and it’s been made all the more disturbing by the recent revelations he used the production to torment the female star, Tippie Hedren, because she refused to submit to his sexual desires.

My favorite director in this genre, however, is Roman Polanski, and his Repulsion (1965) is without doubt one of the most disturbing psychological experiences of my life, the first real immersion into the world of psychosis.

It doesn’t take a big budget to make a great horror film, and that’s been proven over and over. I don’t really care for the slasher films and gore is not my bag, and in a way I guess this film got a lot of that trend going, but today it seems super tame in that regard. Night of the Living Dead (1968) was an original update on the zombie film.

I don’t know why The Tenant (1976) doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Although I enjoyed the basic horror melodrama Rosemary’s Baby, I found this film far more psychologically interesting, exploring concepts of psychic possession and split personality syndrome in a highly original manner. One of the most under celebrated films you’ll ever see.

The Shining (1980) was strangely uncelebrated when it came out, although I found it to be one of the scariest films I ever sat through, a real descent into madness even more powerful than Polanski’s Repulsion. It did eventually attain the status it deserves and now serves as a launching pad for numerous rabbit holes and disinfo stories, so great is its resonance on the telepathic plane.

Talk about psychologically disturbing, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)  set a new bar in that regard. Proving once again that big budgets don’t necessarily make for big horror, director John McNaughton fashioned this masterpiece on a measly $100,000 budget. The film launched a few careers and deservedly so. And I should add I’ve known John since high school and recruited him into my band The Soul Assassins in 1988 in New York City to play organ.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is a wonderful merger of fantasy and horror and seems to owe a ton of inspiration to The Shining, especially the ending. Of all horror films released in the last few decades, this one really stands out as my favorite.

My 10 Favorite Science Fiction Films

In Victorian times, a woman’s ultimate fear was to grow up and find herself married off to some inhuman beast, a deep-rooted fear expressed through novels like Jane Eyre. But in the 1950s, a similar meme began expressing for young teens, and no film expressed this meme more powerfully than Invaders From Mars (1953), a film that cast a shadow over those strange goings-on in the world of adults. I viewed this film as a second grader on a black-and-white in the den of our home outside Boston. I was home sick with a fever, which just intensified the experience immensely. I soon had many dreams inspired by this film, a sure indication of its power in the telepathic plane. Strangely, you almost never see it on television, and the British re-edit destroyed the original ending, which was designed to mimic The Wizard of Oz, as the copy at the top of the poster indicates.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) continued along a similar meme, although this time around the protagonist is an adult and aliens are breeding in pods everywhere up and down the West Coast. Science fiction opens up a lot of possibilities in many different styles, from comedy to super realism to fantasy, but the two of the best examples of the genre on my list were both designed as B-grade thrillers on low budgets, but like Night of the Living Dead, managed to scare teens silly and touch a psychic nerve. Strangely, this film suffered the same sad fate as my first film for the scary ending was jettisoned and replaced with a deus ex machina fake ending instead? I hope the latest versions of these films restore the superior endings the directors both intended.

For my tastes, the glory days of science fiction came in the 1980s, and were aided immensely by the emerging use of CGI. By the way, don’t expect to see Avatar on my list as I positively hated that film, and really don’t care for any CGI blood-baths no matter what the genre. Most of the recent science fiction blockbusters have disappointed me for some time, and I consider the genre in decline, although I did love Gravity and would put it on the list except it’s science fact, not fiction. And I think that’s one reason this genre has suffered for nearly forty years. Our culture is advancing so fast the imaginations of writers have difficulty leaping ahead, simply because paradigm shifts are so quick in real life.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was a game-changer and introduced the super realistic special effects which created something close to a real space ship experience before the advent of CGI. It was a flawed masterpiece, however, simply because the build-up was so great and the ending so weak. Of course, the ending was actually fantastic if you were on LSD at the time and this may have been one of the first Hollywood films people of my generation flocked to while tripping. I don’t recommend synthetics these days, however, so if you want to trip out while watching this, I’d suggest peyote or mushrooms as a much better and safer alternative. And yes, those sacraments will greatly enhance the experience and you won’t even notice the limp ending.

You won’t find Star Wars or Star Trek on my list, or even Dune for that matter. Many of the biggest commercial productions were okay, but this is the top ten so it’s hard to make the cut. However, a low-budget spoof on those films did make it, and it’s seldom celebrated comic masterpiece named for a famous Grateful Dead song, a song that was often a peak moment of their set when a film first appeared called Dark Star (1974). So after going from two thrillers to hyper realism to comedy, the list now enters what I consider the golden age of science fiction.

Alien (1979) was the debut of CGI in a Hollywood science fiction film as far as I know, or something very close. This film took the regular meme of alien possession to much greater realism and theatricality. It was Ridley Scott’s second film and he decided to make it after viewing Star Wars, replacing that film’s light comedy and bloodless battles with a much darker and gorier naturalism.

The Thing (1982) was similar to Alien in some ways, except the location was not a space ship far from earth, but the ice-cold Antarctic. In this thriller, the alien is a shape-shifter who can instantly inhabit anyone and remain undetected. The isolated team is swiftly traumatized and and seeks to determine who may be an alien among them.

Of course Philip K. Dick was a game changer in this genre and a big inspiration to the cyberpunk and cypherpunk movements, but Dick didn’t arrive on the Hollywood scene until Ridley Scott made Blade Runner (1982), although the original story was titled: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Arnold wasn’t very cool until this film came out, but who knew he could be perfectly cast as a robotic killing machine devoid of human emotions? I have to wonder if some of our current school shooters aren’t channeling his character somehow. Meanwhile, Hollywood keeps making the sappiest of robot films, many of which are animated and incredibly maudlin and hardly worth watching, while this gory masterpiece still holds up. The Terminator (1984) is the name of the film.

It’s not often that the sequel is better than the original, but that happened with Aliens (1986). It’s notable that films by Ridley Scott anchor and define this great era in film. Sir Ridley rules the genre more than any other director. I hope he returns to the genre soon as I haven’t really loved any of his films since Black Hawk Down.

The French, like the British, have made many attempts to jump into the science fiction genre over the years, although many of the French productions have been somewhat comic and campy. This film follows in that tradition with the notable addition of advanced CGI. This film was a massive commercial success while receiving mixed reviews. If you haven’t seen The Fifth Element (1997), I suggest you check it out. It doesn’t have the somber nihilism of British films like 1984, but I find it much more entertaining.